Thursday, November 20, 2014

‘Reports lodged but no action’


Updated: Wednesday November 19, 2014 MYT 12:29:43 PM

BY STEPHEN THEN

MIRI: Dozens of reports have been lodged with various enforcement agencies alleging corrupt practices in the logging industry in northern Sarawak but little seems to have been done by the authorities, say complainants.
Human rights groups from the indigenous rural communities in the region praised Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem yesterday for coming down hard on corrupt practices in the timber and logging industries but they want to know why the state Forestry Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and police have not acted on the many reports lodged by the natives over the years.
Peter Kallang, the Orang Ulu National Association chairman for Miri Division, toldThe Star yesterday that he had lodged at least five reports each to the MACC and police in Miri against illegal logging over the past two to three years.
“Apart from MACC and the police, I have also sent official letters to the Forestry Department to inform them of illegal logging in Baram, especially in the forests at the site in Long Kesseh where the proposed Baram Dam is to be constructed.
“I have also accompanied leaders from several other human rights and environmental rights associations when they lodged their own reports with MACC and the police against illegal logging and trespassing of native land where the rural people have native customary rights (NCR).
“All in, there are dozens of reports throughout northern Sarawak against illegal logging and land grabs lodged by human rights groups, environmental groups and individual villagers but until today, none of these reports have seen conclusive investigations by the police, MACC or Forestry Department,” he said.
Kallang was responding to Adenan lashing out at the level of corruption in the state and of timber titans in the state signing a corporate integrity pledge drafted by the MACC and Sarawak Forestry Department which is aimed at strengthening public and private sector commitment towards integrity and addressing corruption.
Adenan, who was addressing a gathering at the State Legislative Assembly building, told the stunned audience that included senior forestry enforcement officials that he would go after them too if they did their job “with eyes but are blind, with ears but are deaf and with mouths but are dumb”.
“While we applaud Tan Sri Adenan for his tough stance against corrupt practices, the fact remains that hanky-panky has been going on for years and nothing much has been done about it,” said Kallang.
“In my case, the police and MACC and forestry people have never interviewed me for further information even after the many reports I lodged with them.”
Kallang, who is also chairman of the environmental group Save Sarawak Rivers, said illegal logging was blatant not just in northern Sarawak but also in other parts of the state.
He said corruption persisted in the logging industry in Sarawak because of weak enforcement on the ground.
Unless the enforcement agencies bucked up, nothing would change, he added.
Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia coordinator for Sarawak Raymond Abin said they too had lodged reports to the MACC and police concerning illegal logging in central and northern Sarawak.
“However, until now, we have no feedback on the status of the investigations,” he said.
In an immediate response, Miri MACC chief Wan Mohd Faizul confirmed that the commission had received reports alleging corruption in the logging industry from the rural communities, non-governmental organisations and local human rights organisations.
“We investigated the reports as they came in.
“Some we referred to the MACC headquarters in Kuching for further directives,” said Wan Mohd, but he declined to give further information on the cases.
“Others that we investigated involved native customary rights – these are disputes between the natives and logging companies where the natives claim they have NCR but the companies say they have valid licences to log.
“In these cases, we found no elements of corruption.”
~ The Star

Landmark victory as Sarawak natives win more time to challenge land grab

BY DESMOND DAVIDSON

Sarawak native landowners have often complained that they are only made aware that their land had been turned over to loggers or developers when land-clearing begins. – flickr pic, November 19, 2014.

Sarawak native landowners have often complained that they are only made aware that their land had been turned over to loggers or developers when land-clearing begins. – flickr pic, November 19, 2014.
Tribal communities won a landmark legal victory with a Federal Court ruling that now allows them to challenge public authorities in land disputes using a writ of summons.
This requires persons to appear in court to answer complaints, a move that buys appellants precious time in establishing their case.
The Federal Court yesterday upheld a Court of Appeal decision that native land owners can use a writ of summons instead of judicial review, as was argued by the Sarawak government.
Explaining the legal victory, lawyer and Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said the state government had argued that disputes could only be initiated via judicial review under which land owners only have 90 days to file their case in court.
In a writ of summons, landowners have three years to do so.
Baru said the state government's argument on judicial reviews meant that most landowners would have lost their case before it had even started.
“In most cases, landowners do not have the time to act because by the time they know that provisional leases (to log, clear or develop land) had been issued by the government on their land, it is too late to act.
“The government is trying to use the judicial review to give landowners little or no time to initiate legal actions,” said Baru, who is also the Ba'Kelalan assemblyman.
He was legal counsel for Samarahan landowners James Jagah Nyadak and Abas Naun who initiated the challenge against using judicial reviews.
“This is another landmark decision involving NCR legal issues,” Baru said.
In dismissing the appeal of the Sarawak government against the 2012 Court of Appeal decision, the Federal Court's five-man bench presided by the Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said native customary rights to land was a constitutional right protected by the Federal Constitution.
The other members of the bench were Tan Sri Suriyadi Halim Omar, Tan Sri Hasan Lah, Tan Sri Zaleha Zahari and Tan Sri Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha.
Reading the decision in Kuching*, Suriyadi said NCR lands should be regarded as an exception under the O’Reilly principle as provisional leases or timber licences were issued without the knowledge of the native landowners, which led to great injustice.
Suriyadi also said procedural efficacy must give way to the supreme law of the land, which was the Federal Constitution.
Sarawak native landowners have often complained that they are only made aware that their land had been turned over to loggers or developers when land-clearing began.
“Despite numerous decisions in the High Court, as well as in the Court of Appeal favouring the native landowners, the state government, the timber companies and oil palm plantations continuously file such interlocutory applications and appeals to substantially delay many trials to date," Baru added.
He said the federal court decision has finally put to rest this long-standing question of law that has been used by the Land and Survey Department and the state government to deprive native customary land owners of their day in court.
“This decision is a sign that the court recognises the natives' legal right to seek justice.”
Baru said the decision also paved the way for more than 200 native customary rights cases now before the court to be heard properly. – November 19, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/landmark-victory-as-sarawak-natives-win-more-time-to-challenge-land-grab#sthash.AQqIxe1P.dpuf


BNBBC thanks PKR’s support on CM’s stand



Posted on November 20, 2014, Thursday


Abdullah (second left) shakes hands with Baru as See (left) and Sharifah Hasidah look on.
KUCHING: The statement of state PKR chairman Baru Bian in supporting Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s stand on corruption and integrity has earned the party’s appreciation from the Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC).

Its chairman Abdullah Saidol said the backbenchers praised the attitude of state PKR elected representatives, who supported the chief minister’s stand on issues such as corruption and illegal logging.

“On behalf of the backbenchers, we would like to congratulate and convey our appreciation, notwithstanding our differences in our political ideas.

“If there is anything in common that is in favour of the people or of public interests, we will support each other,” he told a press conference at the State Legislative Assembly sitting yesterday.

Abdullah, who is also the chief political secretary to the chief minister, said that Adenan, during his meeting with PKR representatives recently, had said that he was ever willing to listen to any good ideas coming from any parties, even from the opposition.

“He (Adenan) is willing to hear if the good ideas will benefit the people.

“For that, we, the backbenchers support and appreciate the stand made by PKR assemblymen.”

Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, meanwhile said he was glad that Adenan, being the chief executive officer of the state, had made a very clear stand on corruption, as corruption was like ‘cancer’ in the society.

“It weakens the whole society. When I talked about drugs and online gambling in Lawas in particular, and the smuggling of vehicles into Indonesia, all of the enforcements were ineffective because of corruption.”

He also thanked the BNBBC for their assurance that they would support state PKR in suggestions that would benefit the state and the people.

State PKR vice chairman and Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How as well as Samariang assemblywoman and a political secretary to the Chief Minister Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali were also present at the press conference.


Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2014/11/20/bnbbc-thanks-pkrs-support-on-cms-stand/#ixzz3JacNZhNS

Illegal logging penetrated wildlife sanctuaries


BY VICTORIA BROWN




PETALING JAYA: Illegal logging is prevalent across Malaysia and has even penetrated protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries.
“Samunsam wildlife sanctuary was completely decimated by illegal loggers and this has been happening over the past ten years,” said chairman of Malaysia Nature Society Kuching Anthony Sebastian (pic).
“The entire sanctuary is gone, all that’s left is its borders. That should not be happening,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview.
Police personnel checking illegal logs seized during a raid on a sawmill in Bintawa, Kuching. File pic

Sebastian who is also the chairman of the international board of directors for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) said that if we do not act now, illegal logging could have dire consequences to our environment, wildlife, culture and economy.
However, even though some of our ‘most vital areas’ have been logged, our forests will eventually regenerate, although it will take 60 to 100 years to do so.
“But our forests will never be the same. We have already lost so many species and we will lose more,” said Sebastian.
The Government also has a vested interest in the curbing of illegal logging due to massive forestry asset loss.
“We have come to a point where if we do not protect our assets, we will have nothing for the future,” said Sebastian.
“The timber industry requires its assets, we call them Permanent Forest Estate (PFE), and this is what ensures that Malaysia will always be a timber producing country.
“What’s happening in Malaysia, and in Sarawak particularly, is that our PFE has been wiped out, and a lot of it has been logged illegally,” he said.
Sebastian said that Malaysia is losing her tropical forests at a tremendous rate with illegal loggers “practically throwing away” valuable hardwood and illegal sellers selling them off at a fraction of the price.
“We need to address the problem (of illegal logging) from multiple levels,” said Sebastian.
“We can’t just be sending out enforcement officers across Malaysia to catch illegal stockpiles and confiscating them, for example. The illegal loggers will just change their tactics, they won’t stop.
“We need a much more comprehensive solution, where find out who the buyers are, who the middlemen are, who supplies the machinery,” he said.
Sebastian said that the public can also help to report on suspicious logging activities on Transparency International Malaysia’s Forest Watch Project website.
“Citizens can play a part in stopping illegal logging by submitting reports that will go into a database which is linked to all the forest departments in Malaysia, which will then be reviewed,” he said.
Sebastian lauded Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s tough stand against corruption and illegal logging in the state.
“I think that it is high time that the state government made a strong stance on illegal logging. This is as strong as it gets, and I applaud it.
“The Chief Minister is essentially saying enough is enough. We have all the wonderful laws but if we don’t enforce them there’s no point in having these laws,” he said
If you would like to submit a report on any suspicious forestry activities such as illegal logging, visit http://www.timalaysia-forestwatch.org.my/.
~ The Star

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sarawak reduces electricity tariffs

3:45PM Nov 19, 2014
By Joseph Tawie
Chief Minister Adenan Satem today announced that the state government will revise downward electricity tariffs for all domestic customers in the state effective from January 1, 2015.

For this purpose, the state government has carefully designed the tariff revision to provide the greatest assistance to low income customers, he said in his winding debate speech at the state assembly.

Adenan said that as a result, almost 60,000 customers will join the 70,000 that are already eligible for the federal government's RM20 subsidy.

That means some 130,000 low income customers in Sarawak will receive a zero monthly bill, he said.

"For the 50,000 customers that are not eligible for the federal government subsidy and are consuming up to 150 units per month, the tariff will be reduced by more than 40%.

"Furthermore, the 50,000 customers consuming between 150 and 200 units will get a reduction in tariff of 30%," he said.

Adenan said that the 80,000 customers presently consuming between 200 and 300 units per month will get a reduction in tariff of just below 20%.

The 50,000 consumers presently consuming 300 and 400 units per month will benefit from a reduction of around 10%, he said.

"The final 125,000 customers with the largest monthly consumption of more than 400 units will get a reduction of between 2% and 4%," he said, pointing out that in total, 240,000 customers or close to 50% of SEB's customers will benefit from a tariff reduction of between 20% and more than 40%.
~ Malaysiakini

PRESS STATEMENT: NATIVE CUSTOMARY RIGHTS TO LAND IS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT


PRESS STATEMENT 
18th NOVEMBER 2014

The Federal Court at Putrajaya presided by the Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin sitting with FCJ Tan Sri Datuk Suriyadi bin Halim Omar, FCJ Tan Sri Hasan bin Lah, FCJ Tan Sri Zaleha binti Zahari, FCJ Tan Jeffrey Tan Kok Wha today unanimously dismissed the appeal of the State Government of Sarawak in the case of Superintendent of Lands and Surveys, Samarahan Division & 2 Ors v James Jagah ak Nyadak & 12 Ors and Superintendent of Lands and Surveys, Samarahan Division & 1 Or v Abas ak Naun & 5 Ors.

The question of law that was posed to the Federal Court Judges was “Whether a Suit filed by a person(s) claiming native customary rights to challenge the decision of a public authority infringing the claimant’s alleged rights is an exception to the general rule enunciated by the Federal Court in Ahmad Jefri bin Mohd. Jahri @ Md Johari v Pengarah Kebudayaan dan Kesenian & Ors [2010] 3 MLJ 145”.

After hearing the submissions from both parties, the Federal Court unanimously answered the above question in the positive and dismissed the appeal by the State Government of Sarawak. This is another landmark decision involving NCR legal issues.

Reading the decision, the Federal Court Judge Tan Sri Datuk Suriyadi bin Halim Omar opined that Native Customary Rights over land is a constitutional right protected by the Federal Constitution and therefore NCR should be regarded as an exception under the O’Reilly principle as the provisional leases or timber licences were issued without the knowledge of the native landowners, which will lead to great injustice. 

The learned judge further opined that procedural efficacy must give way to the supreme law of the land, which is the Federal Constitution, and the Respondent’s action therefore qualifies as an exception under the principle in Ahmad Jefri’s case.

The decision by the learned Federal Court judges have finally put to rest a long standing question of law that has in the past been a hurdle used by the Land and Survey Department and the State Government of Sarawak to deprive the NCR Landowners of their days in court. There have been an increasing number of interlocutory applications by the timber and palm oil companies to strike out NCR claims based solely on this issue alone. Despite numerous decisions in the High Court as well as in the Court of Appeal favouring the NCR landowners, the State Government and the timber and palm oil companies continuously file such interlocutory applications and appeals to substantially delay many trials to date. This latest decision by the Federal Court is a sign that the Federal Court recognizes the native’s legal right to seek justice from the Court.

As stated by Geoffrey Robertson QC in his book “The Justice Game”, law has always been erroneously regarded as a tool for oppression but today the Federal Court shows that the law can also serve as a lever for liberation.

Both the appeals were dismissed with costs of RM10,000-00 against each  Appellant. The Respondents were represented by Mr. Baru Bian and Mr. Simon Siah Sy Jen.

Prepared by,
Simon Siah Sy Jen
Baru Bian Advocates and Solicitors